A quick lesson in ancient Chinese (because that’s what rock music is all about isn’t it?) Tao Ch’ang Wu Wei translates as something like ‘the way and high virtue’. This was the title of a book by a certain Laotzu who was believed to be a contemporary of Confucious. Now, like ever good person ignorant of these things, I used Google to find this out, but way back in 1982 when Steve Linnegar recorded this song, we didn’t have Google, so he would have had to use an old fashioned thing called a book.
Given the cover image of ‘Classic Epics’ on which this song first saw light of day, with its Oriental imagery and the title of other songs (‘Tao Rider’ and ‘Kamakura Dragons’ for example), along with the fact that his other albums were called ‘Music For Shogun’, ‘Karate Moves’ and ‘The Art Of Mist’ it is fairly clear where Linnegar’s interests lay.
However, there was something else he must have been interested in as the song does not sound very eastern. It is definitely a western rock sound that eminates from your speakers when you put the song on. In fact it doesn’t sound like something from the early eighties, but more like something that missed the seventies bus. There’s the heavy bass with raw guitar on top, somewhat ethereal and mystic vocals and swirling organ sounds that would not sound strage if they had appeared on a Yes album, for example.
Linnegar never enjoyed huge commercial success in South Africa in the eighties and it was probably due to the fact that he was making music for an earlier time. And why should we hold that against him. We don’t dismiss penicillin because we could really have done with it a good few years ealier than it was discovered.
Linnegar and his Snakeshed made great music and should be enjoyed for that fact. ‘Tao Ch’ang Wu Wei’ is a classic epic.
Where to find it:
Slowly From The South – Various Artists (2009) Fresh, FRESHCD (D) 163
Also on the 2014 CD release of ‘Classic Epics’ by Spanish record label Guerssen